Absinthe in America

~ The Absinthe Encyclopedia - CHAPTER VI ~

Absinthe has a long history in both the USA and in South and Central America. Above all it’s inextricably linked to New Orleans and its French Quarter, where the Old Absinthe House has been a tourist attraction for more than a century. In 2007, after almost a century of prohibition, absinthe once again became legal in the USA.

New Orleans and the Old Absinthe House

New Orleans and the Old Absinthe House

New Orleans has always been the centre of absinthe culture in the United States. On a conspicuous corner of Bourbon and Bienville in the French Quarter stands the famous Old Absinthe House. An antique, square building of plaster and brick, it’s been visited since the late 19th century by many well-known people including Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, William Thackeray, Walt Whitman and Aleister Crowley. The building was constructed in 1806 by two Spanish importers, Francisco Juncadella and Pedro Font. It continued as a commission house for various foodstuffs until 1820, when it was turned into an épicurie, and then a boot shop. Finally, in 1846, the ground floor corner room became a saloon known as Aleix’s Coffee House, run by Jacinto Aleix and his brother, nephews of the widow of Juncadella. Absinthe was being sold from this building as early as 1826. In 1869, the Aleix brothers hired Cayetano...

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Aleister Crowley & The Green Goddess

Aleister Crowley & The Green Goddess

“What is there in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? … Even in ruin and in degradation it remains a thing apart: its victims wear a ghastly aureole all their own, and in their peculiar hell yet gloat with a sinister perversion of pride that they are not as other men.” Aleister Crowley In 1918, Aleister Crowley, the British occultist and so-called wickedest man in the world, composed a lyrical essay on absinthe and aesthetics titled Absinthe – The Green Goddess. He wrote his essay (according to legend, while waiting for a female companion) in the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. “Art is the soul of life,” he proclaimed, “and the Old Absinthe House is the heart and soul of the old quarter of New Orleans”. An original holograph draft by Aleister Crowley of the poem La Legende de l’Absinthe (here called L’Absinthe), published in The International...

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Absinthe in Central and South America

Absinthe in Central and South America

Absinthe was drunk in South America from at least the 1850’s. It was manufactured in Cuba, in Mexico and in Argentina, and probably also in Brazil. In the early years of the twentieth century it was fashionable amongst the same type of literary and Bohemian crowd who drank it in Paris. Spanish version: Ajenjo Berger. Found recently in Buenos Aires, it seems to have been made for the Argentinean market. Latin American poets like Darío inspired a whole generation of Argentinean tango composers to try absinthe in Paris. Not a few of these tangueros wrote songs praising – or condemning – the drink. Here’s a typical example: Copa de ajenjo Suena tango compañero, suena que quiero cantar porque esta noche la espero y sé que no ha de llegar. Y en esta copa de ajenjo en vano pretendo mis penas ahogar Suena tango compañero, suena que quiero llorar. Pensar...

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Absinthe & The Great South American Poets

Pablo Neruda Hemingway was Cuba’s most famous absinthe drinker. But Pablo Neruda, Chile’s most famous poet (and a Nobel Prize winner), was also an absinthe enthusiast. Hemingway and Neruda followed similar paths. In the 1920s, the poet spent some years in France, and in the late ‘30s lived in Spain, where he supported the Republican cause against Franco’s Fascists. One can assume that Neruda, like Hemingway, acquired his taste for absinthe in one or both of these countries. Neruda’s house – now a museum – in Valparaiso, has a display of his collection of goblets and glasses, including half dozen antique cordon glasses. The following translation is taken from the transcript of a speech made in Cuba by Ángel Augier, a poet and friend of Pablo Neruda. On March 13, 1942, Neruda, then Chile’s General Consul to Mexico, paid his first visit to Havana. Soon after arriving, the poet,...

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